Do you regret anything about coming to the United States?
No, it’s hard to uproot yourself and really become yourself in another soil, but it’s also an opportunity, another kind of growth. The United States is a great country. I’ve been able to survive as an individual and live as a relatively free man. I’ve been left alone to do my own work, to live my own life.
But I live in the margin as a writer—between two languages, two cultures, two literatures, two countries. This is treacherous territory. If I’d written War Trash or even Ocean of Words in Chinese and published them in Chinese originally, those books might be embraced as genuine literature in China. But because I wrote them in English they were banned. A writer in my situation has to have a body of work, not just one or two books, to become significant. And in every book I have to find a new style. I would feel more at home if I wrote in Chinese, that’s clear. But I’ve been doing it in English for so long I can’t switch. Life’s just too short for that.